A trait that distinguishes great leaders is the ability to alleviate tension produced by ambiguity. Show me an organization where vagueness and/or presumption in their communications is the norm, and I will show you an organization that is prone to conflict. Striving for clarity pays off in good productivity. High performing teams know good execution is inevitably tied to clear communication. The Achilles’ heel of communication is good intentions expressed or heard through a set of faulty assumptions. Reduce confusion to increase cohesion.
Here are three ways to reduce ambiguity:
1. Leave a Paper Trail
Summarize in writing all the items that were agreed upon in a meeting or phone call, and then send the summary to the participants. Invite the participants to either sign off that the summary is correct or identify anything that is incomplete or incorrect. To avoid blindsiding anyone, send a copy of the finalized agreement to anyone who will be affected by the decision.
2. Be Clear, Be Clear, Be Clear
In a casual culture, there is an aversion to formalized procedures. Since confusion is a major contributor to conflict, practicing consistent protocols will be beneficial in eliminating unnecessary ambiguity. Seriously, with practice and discipline, most people can learn to write most communications in an unambiguous way. Consider offering training to your team. An example:
“Let’s get together again soon to discuss our project.” (ambiguous)
“Let’s meet together again at 2:15 PM on October 1, in the conference room.” (unambiguous)
3. Resolve and Commit
Conflict will happen, BUT you can stop playing the referee. Unconsciously, humans want somebody else to take their side when they are experiencing relational turmoil. Amazing results happen when we insist that group members who are having interpersonal conflict find common ground, resolve their differences, and write an unambiguous covenant/commitment of understanding. This simple act creates mutual accountability and moves the conversation from “I’ll try” to “I’ll do.”
Dave Marks has over 35 years of church ministry experience including 23 years as a senior pastor. His consulting experience includes ministry assessment, leadership coaching, and strategic planning. Dave’s degrees include a B.S. in Bible, a M.S. in Organizational Leadership and a D.Min. in Leadership.